Usability & User Experience 101

February 10, 2011 - 7 minutes read

Tonight I revisited Manchester Metropolitan University for a talk from Paul Rouke, Manchester based usability and user experience expert, on “Usability & User Experience 101”. Paul has a background in home shopping and retail working previously for a company that was the UKs leading online retailer, turning over £1.5 billion and having 5 million customers! Other than having a dead interesting background, running his own company PRWD and widely being renowned as one of the top of his field, he’s also a bloody nice guy who I had the pleasure of meeting after Dave Chaffey’s talk on the 11 trends of 2011 a couple of weeks back.

Below, I will provide a summary of Paul’s session, as a person who is trying to learn about web dev and usability in an effort to make myself a more rounded digital marketer, picking out the most interesting parts from me and where necessary dropping my own insights in too.

Some Considerations…

  • “Usability isn’t strictly about the online world” although for the sake of Paul’s session it will be…
  • Effectiveness – can they reach their goals?
  • Efficiency – how fast can they do it?
  • Satisfaction – was it a good/bad experience?
  • AND most importantly, would they recommend you?

“SEO has dominated over the last 10 years, all about getting people to the site, not about what they do when they’re there…”


Still the most important page on your site, 49.7% customers land here (Source: Doubleclick)

5 questions your homepage should be able to answer

  • What site/company is it
  • What do they have he
  • What can I do here (what does the site offer?)
  • Where do I start?
  • Why should I be here (and not somewhere else?)

Key questions for homepages, ask yourself…

  • Do we make our proposition clear
  • Do our USPs have enough prominence?
  • Paul also direted everybody to the eConsultancy 5 second test to test your CTA (Call To Action) and USP. Paul, and the audience also gave some example of sites that are ‘doing it right’ in terms of usability, examples that were given were…

    John Lewis
    Screenshot of the John Lewis homepage

    BBC News
    Screenshot of the BBC News homepage

    Screenshot of the ASOS homepage

    Paul also brought up CitiBank as an example that he opened up for discussion.

    Some examples of companies that were ‘doing it wrong’ that were discussed included:

    My personal worst… Odeon Booking System
    Screenshot of the Odeon Booking System

    Hillside Veneers
    Screenshot of the Hillside Veneer homepage

    When talking us through the usability on each of the examples he brought up several points to check, these were:

    • Clear primary navigation
    • Clear proposition
    • Prominent call to action
    • Credibility enhancement
    • Visual stimulus
    • Give it a go and deconstruct a webpage that you think is good/bad for usability, it makes you notice a lot more than you do on a day-to-day basis

    Landing Pages
    Paul then gave us an insight into 3 other areas (other than the homepage) that can make a real difference. The first was landing pages, which there are 2 main types:

  • Existing internal pages & bespoke pages created solely for marketing activities.
  • He also said that the generally same usability principles apply to landing pages and home pages
  • 3 questions your landing page should be able to answer

    • Make it clear where the user is on the website
    • Make content easy to scan read
    • Provide one primary call to action (and secondary if needed)

    Check out any high competition (expensive) PPC areas online to see some of the most effective use of landing page optimisation try ‘Laser Eye Surgery’ or ‘Personal Injury Claims’

    Paul then touched on ecommerce, stating that to a lot of companies an enquiry can be as worthwhile as an online purchase. Here simple lessons in design such as making the ‘remove item’ or ‘back’ buttons in a shopping cart less prominent, for example.

    User Testing
    User Testing was Paul’s final point and is “one of the most enlightening activities you can do”. There are 3 types, these are:

    • Guerilla – Which benefits from being free, simple and can deliver results for pretty much every site
    • Remote – Benefitting from being cheap, simple and enlightening.
    • Some great examples of tools that you can use on your own sight are KISSinsights, Kampyle, 4qsurvey or you could try out Whatusersdo also, Paul said that for the first 50 people to use the promo code ux101 they would get it free!
    • Moderated – in-depth, comprehensive, important for larger brands

    A summary of Paul’s nuggets of wisdom and points for consideration can be seen below:

    • “SEO is about getting people to your website, usability is about what they do/how they do it when they’re there”
    • “For usability, people have more patience with bigger brands.” If you’re starting out. Be aware of this!
    • “usability = embracing consistency (most of the time)”
    • “Don’t hide your USPs!”
    • “Encourage using ticks to demonstrate benefit”
    • “Ensure all your primary call to action is clear”
    • “Watch other people use your website”
    • “Answer the question – where am I?”
    • “Help visitors decide, ‘where should I go next'”
    • “Use button size, style & colour to focus user & increase conversions”
    • “Good usability and user experience isn’t just for the big boys”
    • “Don’t hide your contact details!” you wouldn’t not tell someone your name when you met them, would you…
    • “Remove dead ends”
    • “If you don’t measure what you do, you don’t know if it’s working”
    • “Fall in love with web analytics (especially goals!)”
    • And most of all “Don’t make people think”

    Mmu have got a fully featured testing lab – suitable for websites, games and mobile

    For an absolute wealth of knowledge on Usability, User Experience & User Testing check out PRWDs blog


    Here are Paul’s slides from the session…